Lexington: Update on the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden

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What a difference a year makes!  Well done, Lexington!

The last time I stopped by the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, it was still in its VERY early stages.  Lexington: The Isaac Burns Memorial Art Garden  When I recently paid a return visit, I was blown away by their progress on the park, which is described as a “contemporary downtown urban space.” If you can’t stop by the park, here are my photos to make you wish you could!  🙂

This is the first park in the United States to honor the earliest African-American professional athletes–the Thoroughbred jockeys.  The garden is located on land once owned by Isaac Murphy and his wife Lucy and where their home sat (which they didn’t know when they started this park), in the predominantly African-American East End of Lexington.

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(If you’d like to know more about the sculptures and the artists, scroll to the bottom of the post.)

While Isaac Burns Murphy, the most successful jockey of all time, is the primary character, “the park will also commemorate the accomplishments and contributions of other African-Americans throughout history–other jockeys, tacks, grooms, trainers, etc.”  Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden website.

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The excavated foundation of Isaac and Lucy Murphy’s house has been incorporated into the design of the park.

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The park also serves as the trail head for Lexington’s Legacy Trail, which connects the East End with the Kentucky Horse Park, where Isaac Murphy is buried.

The Legacy Trail is a shared-use greenway trail that connects downtown Lexington with area neighborhoods, parks, and historic sites as it follows a northward course to the Kentucky Horse Park.

The trail stretches 12 miles from the North Side YMCA to the Kentucky Horse Park campgrounds. 8 of the 12 miles are located off of roadways, and the entire length is paved. The Legacy Trail is also a home for local artists. There is interpretative signage along the way, and an additional trailhead at Cold Stream Park.

City of Lexington website

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More about the sculptures and the artists: 

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Walter Early received his BFA from the University of Kentucky and his MFA from the University of Notre Dame. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and has lectured on art in the United States, Canada and Honduras and was a resident artist at the Museum of Steel Sculpture in Coalbrookdale, England.  You can read more at his website:  Walter Early

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Kiptoo Tarus was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1984.  He obtained his B.A at The University of Nairobi for Design, majoring in Illustration, in 2008.  He studied sculpture at the University of Kentucky.  You can visit his website to learn more:  Kiptoo Tarus  

This 2015 article in The East African, Tribal art fascinates Kiptoo Tarus, paints with energy, goes into more detail about his creative process.

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Sculptor Gordon Gildersleeve received a BFA from the University of Kentucky in 1991.  He maintains a studio in Lexington, Kentucky.

His sculptures and functional art, described by critics as “wildly elegant” and “full of vitality,” are exhibited nationally, installed publicly and displayed in numerous private collections, including a 2003 acquisition by Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Visit Gordon Gildersleeve’s website to learn more about his work:  Gordon Gildersleeve

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If you’d like to read more about Isaac Burns Murphy and other African-American jockeys:

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